Tizita Tadesse’s journey starts in Ethiopia, where she was born. Her family – her parents and two older siblings – moved to a refugee camp in Kenya. Then the family moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., thanks to the sponsorship of the First Presbyterian Church.

After Kenya, South Dakota

All this in Tizita’s first two years of life. The cold of a South Dakota winter was a new experience for Tizita and her family.

Tizita grew up as her family expanded to five children. She graduated from high school and started in college.

An immigrant again

But she says she needed change, growth, and direction in her life. She prayed. The answer: Go to Fort Collins, where she knew no one. You could say she was an immigrant again.

She had been a server at a chain restaurant in Sioux Falls, so she started working for the same restaurant in her new city, at least as she got to know Fort Collins. But her journey continued from job to job.

“It didn’t matter what I was doing,” she says. “I was living paycheck to paycheck. My faith supplemented my earnings. It was four years of soul searching. I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what direction to take.”

Becoming a teacher

Her own life’s journey provided the answer. Her experiences, her strengths, her interests, were with immigrant populations. She decided she would be a teacher.

“I may not come off as an immigrant,” she says, “but I am one. I want to teach immigrants. I want to be that bridge to their new life.”

Where to start this part of her journey?

Front Range was waiting for me

“Front Range was here,” she says. “It was always waiting for me. I was serious about studying, and I was hungry for knowledge.”

She was so serious about her education that she never missed a class. Never. And she graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She balanced her studies with working at the Information Desk at FRCC’s Larimer Campus and as a Student Ambassador, giving tours to potential students and other visitors.

“I was so blessed,” she says. “I got in with an amazing group of people. My work supervisors and co-workers have embraced me.”

Transfer to Colorado State University

Tizita’s journey will continue at Colorado State University. A Pat Griffin Scholarship will support her quest. The Fort Collins-based Griffin Foundation awards scholarships to community college graduates seeking to complete a bachelor’s degree. The scholarship – $5,000 per semester up to four semesters – is awarded based on academics, leadership and service, personal traits, and financial need.

Strength from the journey

As the student speaker at the Larimer Campus Commencement, Tizita said, “As I congratulate you, my fellow students, I want to encourage you. Inevitably, challenges lie ahead. As the apostle Paul said, ‘Rejoice when you run into problems. They build endurance that builds character’.”

She talked about a blacksmith who puts metal under extreme heat, then hammers the metal into shape before plunging it into cold water.

“As students, we have been put under heat, put under pressure, and exposed to cold. Again, I say rejoice. Just like that piece of metal, we will become stronger.”

Tizita has gained strength from her journey.

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